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Dodgers' Matt Kemp: 'I'm going to be ready'

Dodgers slugger says he's using the spring for working on things and not worrying about hitting statistics.

March 15, 2013|By Dylan Hernandez

PEORIA, Ariz. — Matt Kemp is batting .136 this spring. He has struck out nine times in 22 at-bats.

But Kemp sounded confident about regaining his old form by the start of the regular season, saying he is thinking less about his surgically repaired left shoulder with each passing day.

"I'm going to be ready, man," Kemp said. "That's all everybody needs to know. I'm going to be ready for the season. I'm going to give us a great chance of doing some big things this year."

Unproductive springs are nothing new to Kemp.

Last year, he struck out 26 times in 65 at-bats in the Cactus League. But in April, he had the best month of his career, batting .417 with 12 home runs and 25 runs batted in.

"I don't use spring training to try to get a lot of hits," Kemp said. "I use spring training to have a lot of good at-bats, hit the ball hard and just work on things. I'm not in a position where I'm trying to make a team. I'm on the team. I get to work on things. Of course, you want to get hits in spring training, but I'm not worried about it. I want to feel good and get my legs under me."

Kemp acknowledged that because of uncertainty about his lead shoulder, he was initially cautious when swinging the bat.

"I'm good now," Kemp said. "It's getting better."

Kemp said he hasn't experienced any soreness in his shoulder.

And while he started hitting later this winter than he had in past off-seasons, he said this spring doesn't feel much different than any other. Like in any other spring, he added, his focus is on finding his timing.

"I'm still getting in the rhythm," he said. "I feel better and better every day."

Kemp was one for three in the Dodgers' 8-7 defeat to the San Diego Padres on Friday. He singled to right field in his last at-bat, stole second base and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Skip Schumaker.

Punto returns

Utilityman Nick Punto returned to camp from the World Baseball Classic, where he represented Italy.

"You shocked the world!" Kemp said upon seeing Punto.

Italy upset Mexico and Canada to reach the second round of the tournament. Punto batted .421 (eight for 19) in five games.

Punto, who also played in the tournament in 2009, said he was impressed by the increased talent level of the Italian-born players.

"A lot of those pitchers you saw were from Italy, most of the bullpen and the starting pitchers," Punto said. "They had great offspeed pitches."

Punto was born and raised in Southern California, but was able to play for Italy because his late grandparents were from there.

Short hops

Zack Greinke played catch, throwing a baseball for the first time since he received an injection of platelet-rich plasma Monday. "Pretty good," Greinke said. "Doing more tomorrow." But Greinke isn't expected to throw a bullpen session until next week, which will probably limit him to two starts for the remainder of spring training. Considering Greinke has pitched in only two games, Manager Don Mattingly acknowledged he might not be able to prepare himself to make his first scheduled start of the regular season on April 2. … Carl Crawford got seven more at-bats in minor league games and continued his throwing program.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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